Just in time for the weekend–Five Things. Enjoy!
First of all, thank you to each and every one of you who email me with your ideas and kind words–I so appreciate hearing from you. And last week, Robin B. emailed me about one of her favorite Etsy vendors, Mashalaurence.
Thank you so much for sharing this link, Robin, because I was entranced by these gorgeous literary prints, such as this one of Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. Isn’t it amazing? Go check out the other wonderful Bronte and Jane Austen inspired art.
Print by MashLaurence
Can I share my vaccine joy? My parents are vaccinated now, and I am as well, so in the last week, I had my first visit in 13 months into my mom’s apartment. She and I nearly wept as we got to do that simple ordinary thing of having a cup of coffee and catching up.
Next up, I am planning on going to see my Dad in Oregon, because I haven’t seen him since March 4th of last year–when we snapped this picture of our feet on the beach.
It was one of those odd ball Spring days in the Pacfic Northwest when the weather pretends to be summer and we decided to go to the Coast from his home in Roseburg. I’ve looked back on this photo so many times over the last year and thought of that perfect day with my dad and my sons. Do you have a picture that has carried you through?
A while back, I was buying Taco Seasoning and happened to look at the package ingredients (right after I looked at the price) and had a big moment of clarity. Half the stuff in the package I couldn’t pronounce and the other half I had on my shelf at home. How hard could it be to make my own?
Since then I have been making this out of my own cupboard: Taco Seasoning
I use it in all kinds of things–stuffed green peppers, fish, chicken, anything that needs a little kick and of course, tacos. Happy mixing.
I know I’ve recommended Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion books, (at least I hope I have) and lately have been working my way through the Penric novellas. If you haven’t read her, you can give them a try starting with Penric’s Demon. Sometimes a novella is just the sort of read you need, and Desdemona, Penric’s demon cracks me up every time.
I’m usually happily a homebody, but lately I’ve been getting that travel bug like most of us are—to go somewhere new. So I’ve started a travel bucket list and one of the top spots? Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas.
I love looking for things, and finding a diamond? Wow! Actually I found a diamond ring once on the beach! I also found the owner as well and got a big reward which was huge for a ten year old. Clearly I have diamond hunting in my blood.
Has anyone been there? And what is on your list?
Happy armchair travels! Looking forward to the day when we can all meet up at events again.
Welcome to Friday, and Good Friday as well, if you celebrate Easter. Have a blessed weekend and may all your eggs be chocolate.
In the meantime, here a Five Things to start off your weekend with a smile and a bit of joy.
Have you seen these Miniature Book Nooks? I had no idea they were a thing until Susanna Kearsley starting making one and asked me order a painting for her because the maker would not ship to Canada.
Imagine me listening to her, “yes, yes, you want me to order a tiny painting for your character’s study which you are making in miniature. Sure no problem.” Then imagine me explaining to my husband when the package arrives. “Yes, yes, this really is a THING. She didn’t prank me.” LOL.
I’ve added the paperclip so you could see how tiny the painting is. Has anyone else made one of these? If so, send me a picture I can share with everyone.
If you haven’t met Casper the talking dog and his Dad, now is the time. First, I thought he was the cutest dog ever because he looks so much like my dear Jack. But then I fell in love with these funny videos.
Do enjoy this compilation of Dad and Caspy, which are delightful and will make you smile. It begins with one of my favorites, Smoosh Face.
I am actually not a huge cheesecake fan, but the family likes it, so every so often I stock up on cream cheese and make this Classic Cheesecake.
My all important tip to making a cheesecake is to get one of those plastic turkey roasting bags (the sort of thing I wouldn’t be caught dead using with a turkey) however when you snug it around a springform pan to make a waterproof seal, your crust won’t get accidentally soaked in the water bath. Then your cheesecake will be better than perfect.
And my oldest’s tip is to cover it in chocolate sauce and eat it for breakfast. No judgments here.
Speaking of miniatures, I recently read this article about portrait miniatures from the Regency/Georgian era. I always consider these great finds when I spot them in museums and antique shops. When I was writing The Knave of Hearts, I had this one pinned to my Inspiration page.
Being laid up for eight weeks, I got a lot of reading done. (And knitting and binging on Netflix….) so I was very excited to have a new Martha Hall Kelly book arrive the other day.
I’d ordered it months ago and it just arrived on the doorstep like an Easter basket. Almost better than chocolate. Almost…
But I’ve loved the other two books in this series, Lilac Girls and Lost Roses, so I am looking forward to the stories continuing in Sunflower Sisters.
Have a lovely Easter weekend and see you next week with Five More Things.
I’ve notified the winners of last week’s drawing for an audiobook. Thank you to everyone who entered. And now onto this week’s list.
My mom belongs to the Quilter’s Anonymous quilt group here in Seattle and every year they have a very lovely quilt show.
One year my mother was the featured artist!
Like everything else, the show has gone virtual, which lucky us, we can all attend. So if you love quilts or fiber arts, join me in attending The QA 2021 Quilt Show.
Quilt: Hazel Hedgehog, by Izumi Harris
First of all, you know I love Kate Quinn‘s books. This isn’t the first time I’ve recommended them. And The Rose Code lives up to all my expectations. Great story, wonderful characters, lots of good twists and all the good things you expect in the hands of a skillful writer like Kate Quinn.
Looking for five seasons of amazing science fiction, suspense and adventure? Pop the corn, get all the snacks ready and watch The Expanse. My husband and I had started this a couple of years ago, watched like 2 episodes and got sidetracked watching something else.
Mistake. Big Mistake.
We came back to it recently and if we had just stuck with it to Episode Three, this would have been on the top of my Five Things back in April.
And all I can say is, Amos. More Amos.
I know I keep saying this–but Instagram has become my favorite place to find books. Readers and bloggers and podcasters are all there showing their book love and my TBR grows every day because of all these fabulous accounts.
Plus I am
sort of addicted to scrolling through the fun pictures, like this one that @angelareadsromance did of @pinkcowlandreads reading my book, It Takes A Hero. By the way, Angela’s artwork of romance novels is AMAZING!
Two other favorites to follow if you like to read romances, I say this tongue in cheek, because don’t we all??? Check out and follow: @mrsreidyreads and @erika.bluestocking.
Looking for a simple and easy Sunday supper? Or something to throw together for any old Monday? I love this recipe for Crockpot Whole Chicken. I’ve never liked chicken in the crockpot until I tried this recipe–and it does turn out just like grocery store rotisserie chicken–well, better because it comes out hot and hasn’t sat in a warmer half the day. *snort!*
Easy, quick and very yummy.
Photo Credit: No. 2 Pencil
Happy cooking, reading and finding new friends on Instagram. Got my second vaccine recently and now that I am free to roam, you know what I want to do? Stay home. Read. Write. You can show this girl the door out of the pandemic, but you can’t convince her to leave her books. LOL!
Stay safe. Wear that mask. All best wishes for a fabulous week.
Do you like rooting for the little guy? Here is the video for you. In Penguin v. the Orcas, our hero is a plunky little penguin who finds itself being chased all over by a band of orcas, and finds a way to escape that is a delight. Enjoy.
When new shows arrive, I always get excited because I love good mystery shows but not police dramas. Shows like, Person of Interest, or The Pretender. The Equalizer, with Queen Latifah in the starring role checks all the boxes. Cool, savvy heroine? Check. Nerdy tech? Check. People in need of a someone to save the day and a unlikely heroine? Check. Check. If you get a chance, check it out.
Now I am huge fan of Beatriz Williams, but I absolutely loved her latest book, Her Last Flight. I’ve been reading a lot as I’ve been recuperating from surgery and this one made me glad to have to be “off my feet and reading.”
This book is a re-imagined Amelia Earhart, that both breaks your heart but gives you a wonderful, thrilling story of early flight and finding oneself. I loved, loved, loved it. I think you will too.
Do you like Rice Krispie treats? I do. And the boys in the house? Devour them. Then I found these. These can only be described as “Decadent.” Be warned. My favorite Rice Krispie Treats. (Who knew the trick is more marshmallows. Then again, perhaps that’s the solution to all life’s problems: more marshmallows.)
Photo Credit: Sprinkle Some Sugar
If you can’t wait, Mad About the Duke is available through Audiobooks and Audible.
Note: To download your prize you will need a free Audiobooks account.
See you next week for more books, treats and things to discover.
So, I’ve been absent for a bit. From my heart, I’ve missed all of you.
First it was the holidays, and then it was January. And then I had foot surgery. And now, I am finally walking again–hurrah!!–and ready to get back to sending out newsletters once more.
And thank you to everyone who has written in the meantime to politely ask me to get going again. And a special thanks to those who nagged. You know who you are and you are loved.
Coming back here is also out of a sense that we are all struggling as we go this one year anniversary week since everything got upended. We are tired, tired, tired of all this, and we need our friends, our comforts, and delightful distractions more than ever. Let’s hang in there together.
So what have I been collecting since mid-December? The usual. Books, binging delights, and of course, things to eat.
TODAY–yes, Today, Friday March 12th at 6pm EST–I am part of a live panel on YouTube discussing Wallflowers in Romance. Joining me are the delightful Cat Sebastian, Lenora Bell, and Stacy Reid. It should be a real kick. Join us on here.
I have been dying to share this book since I read it last fall. I’m not gonna lie, advance copies are one of my favorite parts of being an author. And Band of Sisters, which came out this week, is a delight to read. It has that cozy warmth of Call of the Midwife and all the strength of perseverance in friendship. Lauren Willig‘s fine writing and emotional core are here in this delightful story of a group of Smith College graduates who went to France during World War I.
With it being St. Patrick’s Day next week, well, of course I’ll be making this Irish Soda Bread. I make it every year and don’t know why I don’t make it more often. But the best part of it–having it for breakfast toasted. Nummy.
So are you a currants in your soda bread person? Raisins? Caraway seeds? Carrying around grandma’s recipe from the old country? Do tell.
Photo credit: Elise Bauer, Simply Recipes
Not enough books for you? I found this blog post, 15 Immersive Historical Fiction Books About Overlooked Events on Modern Mrs. Darcy the other day. I’m not one for clicking on these “27 Times Celebrities…” or “18 Ways to Get Your Spouse to…” but 15 books? That’s my catnip and click bait.
P.S. I loved this one:
I know I’ve gone on and on about Instagram before, but I have been finding the best books from book bloggers there–it’s become my favorite place to find new authors and books. Looking for some great bloggers/booklovers to follow? Try: @plottrysts, @thehistoricalshelf or maybe, @miss_melissalee. Pretty, pretty book pictures and lot’s to discover. You can find me there at @elizboyle.
Maybe you recognize this stepback from a book you might have read…. Since it is Friday, I won’t make you work too hard, it’s Love Letters From a Duke.
Photo credit: @miss_melissalee
Have a great weekend! Please, continue to wear that mask–it saves lives.
A week to Christmas? Egads! I’d be really panicked if it was a usual year–big dinner to plan. Family arriving from around the country. And getting those last minute gifts done. But this year? Just trying to finish two knitting projects. That’s it.
We all have people we miss seeing, and at Christmastime, no less, it is harder. But I take a deep breath–one of any number I’ve taken over the last 10 months and remind myself, this shall pass. And on the other side is next year. With high hopes for the blessings of family and friends around my table.
In the meantime, let’s enjoy the simple things.
My word for the week is Gift. It seems like this time of year is the scramble to get all the gift giving done. But I think moreso there have been so many more gifts this year. Gift of time. The gift of having my oldest home for so many months. Family games nights. Video chats with family.
Look for the gifts you’ve gained this year and treasure those. And if this year has been hard, think of what may lay ahead. Aren’t we all ready for the road in front of us?
I’ve made it a point not to be pushy about my books, as authors can be at times. The point of this newsletter has been to share the gifts in my life with you. But if you can, and if you have someone in your life who you think might enjoy it, might you consider gifting them with The Brazen Trilogy. It is only $1.99 on Amazon, and will remain so until the end of the year.
Which also means there is time to gift yourself as well. (And it is free if you have Amazon Unlimited.)
If I was having a big old regular Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, I would probably make these Holiday Breadsticks : Don’t they look nummy? I might just have to make them anyway.
Photo credit: It’s Always Autumn
Time for one last cookie before Christmas–and I think I saved the best for last. The Hidden Maraschino Cherry Cookie. These are one those cookies that everyone at Christmas sorts through the cookie plate to find because they don’t want to miss having them.
I only make them at Christmas and I often have to make them twice. So don’t blame me if you bake them this weekend and they are gone by Sunday. You were warned.
Five (The Giveaway!!!!)
My Christmas gift to all of you is a chance to win one of my newly released audiobooks. I wanted to say thank you to everyone who has become part of the community behind this newsletter.
I’ll send out the download codes to the winners next week.
A very joyous holidays to all of you.
It’s Friday. No preamble. Let’s just get one with it.
Are you writing along with me? As we move into Week 3 of journaling the Season, the word this week is Light. I think this is the word for the entire season. Nothing is more valuable right now than light. It brightens the darkness inside and out. What brings light into your heart and home right now?
While these Christmas cookies aren’t some old family recipe, these Chocolate Crinkles are ones that I love and were always found on the infamous family cookie tree. I can’t find Grandma’s recipe, but this one tastes just like hers.
After I finished All The Ways We Said Goodbye by the dynamite trio of Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White, and recommended it to you all here, I discovered I had somehow missed The Glass Ocean, which is a forerunner to All the Ways…
So, start with The Glass Ocean and then move on to All the Ways. I’ll get these recommendations in order one of these days. Really anything by these amazing and gifted writers is worth a read and The Glass Ocean is no exception. Smart. Great characters and a wonderfully woven story. A settle in, grab a cuppa and just read treat.
Many, many years ago, I discovered Almond Kringle. And I once I made it, I couldn’t stop making it at the holidays. I make piles of these to give as gifts to friends and family. About July I start getting requests. From friends, family, the household.
You won’t think it will be much while you are making it, but once it finishes baking and it’s frosted and sliced, then you get it. Awww. This is good. Really good.
A perfect thank you for anyone who’s helped you lately, or someone who needs a reminder that they are loved.
Took a walk in a different neighborhood this past week, and all around were little funny memes stapled to the telephone poles. Since you all loved the pumpkin hatted cats from a few weeks ago, when I spotted this one, I had to share. Made me laugh.
Bonus realization: Take a walk in a new neighborhood.
Into December we joyfully proceed. Yes, I am still on last week’s Joy celebration. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a new word for all of us to celebrate.
First off, thank you to so many of you who wrote to me to share your lists of Joy. They brought tears to my eyes and lightened my heart. Thank you so much for sharing.
And one quick reminder–don’t forget, I will be on Julia Quinn’s Instagram Live this coming Tuesday, December 8, 2pm Pacific Time. You can get the details here. Hope to see you there!
Here’s to the first Friday of December.
As I wrote last week, I am offering up a word every week to reflect upon, write about, look for in our lives. It is something as an avid journaler and writer that I do all the time. So here is this week’s offering:
Take a deep breath and approach this busy season with one word in mind: Peace. I’ve been reflecting on this word all week as demands begin to cartwheel into a whirl of must dos and have tos. This year, we can opt out of all that and enjoy the quiet beauty of the season.
Find it anyway you can. In the sparkle of Christmas lights on a dark night. In the quiet hour of the morning before the hoard in your house awakens. In the perfect holiday song that fills your heart. In filling a neighborhood Little Free Library that has been converted to a Little Free Pantry.
Pause, breathe, let it fill your heart.
Now, what brings you Peace?
Oh, goodness. I ADORE these Christmas Teacakes. I joked about last week’s Yule Crispers that they weren’t my favorites as a child, but I was known for parking myself in front of the Christmas cookie plate and eating every single one of these. Before dinner. My grandmother finally learned not to put these out until dessert.
Love, love, love these. And I usually end up baking them twice. And apparently, sooner rather than later.
When I get asked about a favorite romance novel, I have lots of favs, but one of my all time favorites is As You Desire, by Connie Brockway. The opening scene in a desert tent with a drunk heroine cracks me up every time. And the hero, Harry Braxton? Be still my heart. Connie Brockway is what I like to call a smart writer–she gives you a good, chewy story, and characters with wonderful depth. If you haven’t read this oldy by goody, queue it up. You won’t regret it.
I love Star Trek. More than Star Wars. There I said it.
I don’t want to even admit how many times I’ve binged all of Deep Space Nine–marveling at the grand story arc of Captain Benjamin Sisko as he comes to discover who he is. And that is what I love most about Star Trek. It isn’t about the vast exploration, but the uncovering of who we are at our most elemental. And their latest show, Star Trek Discovery is all about that.
If you haven’t had a chance to watch it, it might be a great time to sign up for CBS streaming for a month and watch all three seasons. Live long and prosper.
I get asked a lot about knitting from friends, friends of friends, and sometimes strangers in yarn shops. I love knitting–having done it since I was about 7 and having learned the craft from my grandmothers. Both of them passionate knitters.
So this time of year, lots of people are looking for quick gift ideas and I suggest if you are new to knitting or interested or just knit a little, you try one of these two wonderfully easy patterns from Tin Can Knits, the Barley Hat or the Maize Mitts. I’m knitting both this year for my oldest.
Here is the Barley hat and it comes in all sizes from this cutie to that hairy, six foot stranger you birthed twenty some years ago. And anyone in between.
Photo Credit: Tin Can Knits
Tin Can Knits has a wonderful catalogue of easy patterns that are written for beginners and those just looking to increase their skills. You can check out their website or their patterns on Ravelry. Happy stitching! (And while the big chains have all the knitting supplies you might need, consider checking out your local yarn shop.)
There’s this week’s list. Have a great Friday and blessed weekend. And I’ll see you next week!
Opening one eye after a day of baking, roasting, rolling, snapping, mashing and stirring to offer a better-late-than-never wish of a happy Friday wherever you are. Goodness, I love Thanksgiving. Even pared down pandemic Thanksgiving. Throw together a turkey sandwich and enjoy the following:
I love picking a word for a week or a month or the year, and trying to find ways to express it in my bullet journal. So I thought for the next four weeks of Advent, I would share with you what I am writing about.
This week I chose Joy, because while it seems in short supply this year, but despite all the changes and challenges, I have found it in the smaller world around me in so many ways.
So here are my five things that bring me Joy.
- The birds who visit the bird feeder outside my office window. From the flitting sparrows, to the acrobatic flickers, to the flock of tiny and dainty bush tits who come by once daily. They always make me smile.
- Having my family under one roof. What a treat it was this year to have our college son home most of the year. I will always treasure the joy of cooking together.
- My garden this year struggled, and yet, it fed us–and watching it grow brought faith and joy to my heart.
- Turning on the Christmas lights each afternoon. This is dark season in Seattle, and nothing brings joy more than a string of colorful lights brightening the darkness.
- All of you. I had no idea what would happen when I started this newsletter back during the early days of the pandemic. Your emails and notes and ideas have brought me back here every week trying to find the best to share with you. Thank you for the joy of inspiration.
Now, what are five things that have brought you Joy recently?
Clearly Christmas cookies are a hit, and since I love baking and sharing, here is our next entry: Yule Crispers, straight out of Grandma’s old shoe box of recipes. As a child, I always found these cookies highly suspect because they had those weird cherries on top.
As an adult, I’ve realized I spent a lot of years avoiding a very nummy cookie. I think Grandma put the cherries on them to keep us kids out. Full of cinnamon, a hint of nuts and the joy of getting to that cherry treat in the middle, they are a delicious cookie to share, or hoard.
No judgments here.
LIVE! Julia Quinn and I will be chatting live on Julia’s Instagram page on December 8th at 2pm, Pacific Time. I have never done this before–Instagram Live, that is. I’ve been chatting with JQ for years.
I would love to have as many of you share in the fun as possible. So if you can make it, join us.
Runneth over with Turkey today? This is my favorite thing to do with extra turkey (short of the perfunctory Turkey Cran Sandwich) is making these Chicken Pot Pies by Ree Drummond (I know, I am on Ree Drummond kick!) with leftover turkey.
What I ADORE about this recipe? It makes enough that I can freeze the extras before baking, and then when I don’t want to cook, I slide these frozen turkeypie-sycles into the oven and an hour later, dinner. Delish.
Do you listen to podcasts? I recently found Plot Trysts! Meg and Laine are hilariously fun as they dissect, discuss and dig into their favorite historical romances. You can find them on Facebook, Instagram, and their 160+ episodes are available wherever you go for some listening fun.
If you want to see what they said about me, check out the August 27th episode where they reviewed and discussed The Matchmaker’s Bargain (linked to Apple podcasts). (There is also a January 2020 episode that features His Mistress by Morning, which can be found here.)
Meg and Laine are a hoot! Add them to your listening list.
P.S. Meg and Laine wondered why my story in the this anthology, The Matchmaker’s Bargain, was significantly longer than the others, and there is a reason for that–it was meant to fill in the space of two other novellas.
Here’s the behind the scenes tattle: Avon had done an anthology of four authors, but had a hard time finding a spot to publish it that didn’t bump into one of those four authors’ new releases, so they decided to split that book into two projects and add a third author to each of these two new anthologies to fill in the gap.
I got tipped off by one of the authors about the open slots–thank you, JQ– and had really wanted to do an anthology and had the perfect story in mind, so when I got the news on a Friday afternoon, I had my proposal in by Monday morning. I also got the luxury of being able to tell a longer story. Which is why The Matchmaker’s Bargain is so much longer…
But you didn’t hear about that from me.
Have a great week. Stay safe. Wear that mask. I hope to have news of a new book in 2021, and you wouldn’t want to miss that.
So this week has been one of time to write. A bit of baking. And that quiet sense of waiting that happens just before the rush of the holidays begins next week. I like to dip my toe into the holidays before it turns into a rush and I have few things this week to ease you into that and happy mayhem.
Let the Christmas cookie recipe exchange commence! The first one I am sharing with you is an old family recipe, Chocolate Cookie Bars. My mom always made these at Christmastime and occasionally when we’d talk her into making them out of season. I love these cookies so much and they are are nice addition if you gifting cookies or making a mixed cookie place.
I love Bookbub because they always send me alerts when a favorite author has a new book coming out.
So thank you very much for the email or I might have missed the new book by Sabaa Tahir, Sky Beyond the Storm. This is the last book in the An Ember in the Ashes series that I have loved so much. I even blogged about it here.
I adore YA fantasy and this has been a great series. Can’t wait until it downloads on December 1st. If you haven’t read it, you have time to get through the other three books before then. I’m helpful like that.
Also, this series would make a great Christmas gift to the YA reader in your life, or you.
Small confession: I have been crocheting this Tree Garland from Crochet Today magazine off and on since 2012. It’s one of those projects that you pull out and think you are going to finish for Christmas and then all your Christmas gift crafting takes precedence and you set it aside and then in January the last thing you want to look at is an unfinished Christmas project and back in the drawer it goes.
Am I right?
So this year I swore I was going to finish them, and realized the only way to do that was to make them for friends. So I am making little mini three tree garlands to give away. And I finished enough trees last night. Actually they are quick and fun to crochet, and really, you won’t need eight years to get them done.
Here is something that is just perfect for watching while baking cookies or when you just need a bit of light romance to escape. Holidate–about a pair of singles who decide to be each other’s plus one for a year of holidays. It isn’t perfect, but when is dating ever perfect? Available on Netflix.
The Seattle Times ran an article last week about old family recipes and when I saw this one, Aunt Rosemarie’s Pumpkin Bread, I knew I wanted to try it. Besides, I am sucker for pumpkin bread and this is best recipe ever. It has been declared a Keeper by my household of eaters.
Notes: the recipe doesn’t say so, but you need a small can of pumpkin–not that big honkin’ can of Libby’s. Just the small one. Or get the big one and split it–half for your pumpkin pie and the other half for the best pumpkin bread ever. The family will love you twice as much.
Also, I was totally out of ground cloves–who knew you could run out of ground cloves, but there you are–and so I used a teaspoon of ground ginger instead of cloves.
“Aunt Rosemarie’s Pumpkin Bread” is photographed at Ellen Peterson’s home in Brier, Wash, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)
There you have it. A Friday’s worth of great things. Dive in. Bake. Watch. Read. Mask up. Stay safe.